Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Goff Doctrine

A big congratulations to the new Labour opposition line-up. Well done, Phil Goff and Annette King. It was smart of the Labour caucus to choose unanimously to support Goff. It's too early to have leadership challenges manifesting themselves, so a sign of unity is a great start. In Labourthink, it was Phil's time anyway. He has patiently waited his turn, therefore it's his go. However, there are more important points to consider for the Labour left beyond seniority and obvious skill.

It had to be Phil, because any other choice would have left the possibility that Helen Clark sat in the backbenches twiddling with a Universal Remote Control and an RFID chip in, say, Cunliffe's brain. The best thing for Labour is for Helen Clark to depart with graceful yet great haste. Nice of John Key to oblige with support for an international posting for her. Real Helen can then re-emerge from behind the PR gloss that increasingly constrained her and play a mana-enhancing role for NZ overseas.

Regime change is necessary in Labour, and with Goff's political baggage, he'll need to take a more truthful stance than would be possible with Clark hanging about. Just as Clark had changed the political ball-park for the Nats, so too with Key. His style will influence the style of future government challenges. A shift to the far left would not only step on the the Greens vote, one third the strength of Labour's seats, but it would also leave Labour out of the running for at least two terms by alienating that middle electoral vote. Quite simply, Goff will have maintain the centre and reconcile his support of the Rogernomics era. Goff will have to out-Key Key with a Labour compromise.

It all reminds me of the old Khrushchev letters:

Leonid Brezhnev, upon taking office found the two letters and a note Khrushchev had attached:

"To my successor: When you find yourself in a hopeless situation which you cannot escape, open the first letter, and it will save you. Later, when you again find yourself in a hopeless situation from which you cannot escape, open the second letter."

And soon enough, Brezhnev found himself in a situation which he couldn't get himself out of, and in desperation he tore open the first letter. It said simply, "Blame it all on me." This Brezhnev did, blaming Khrushchev for the latest problems, and it worked like a miracle, saving him and extending his career. However, in due time Brezhnev found himself in another disaster from which he could not extricate himself. Without despairing he eagerly searched his office and found the second letter, which he tore open desperate for its words of salvation. It read thus:

"Sit down, and write two letters."